What Are Mind Maps?

Why would you create them?

Mind maps are visual representations of ideas and information created using whole mind or "radiant thinking" and are used for many and varied purposes. A versatile process, mind mapping is wonderful for both thinking through and clarifying ideas, as well as, to develop plans to accomplish goals.

I use mapping most often with clients or in my own life as a process for:

  • Visual thinking & brainstorming
  • Visual or diagrammatic organizing & planning
  • Future life and work imagining and planning
  • Creativity generating exercise

Other uses include:

  • Non linear note taking
  • Presentation of complex and layered structures
  • Problem solving

I imagine that people have been mind mapping in some form as long as we've been drawing and writing. However, Tony Buzan is credited with refining the process and bringing distinction to the term and wrote The Mind Map Book:How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain's Untapped Potential. I love the term radiant thinking as it captures the visual characteristic of a finished map as well as the thinking process involved in generating them.

I first learned about this versatile technique when I was working on my Master's degree. One of my advisers had us map our thesis question as a way of organizing information and ideas. I was caught having difficulty deciding between two strong areas of interest. This visual radiant thinking process helped me discover the common thread between the two interests. So, rather than having to give one up, I found the deeper connection which ultimately became my thesis topic. After I had used the mapping to take my inquiry to a more meaningful level and revised my direction. I then used the process again to help me figure out how I would approach writing the thesis; to outline the chapters and create a plan.

I was introduced to mapping again during my coach training, where we were taught to use it to assist clients in exploring and planning out their ideal future lives.

Here is the basic process:

Get a big sheet of paper: preferably as large as 18 x 24. In the center write your stated goal or the question you want to answer (as in my thesis topic or your ideal life or livelihood). Put a circle around it and then draw gradually waving lines emanating from the circle, like branches of a tree or the rays of the sun. Use a different color for each branch. Start labeling each branch with an aspect, component or association of the whole. Add smaller branches coming off from the larger branches and write on those a subset or aspect of the larger branch it is attached to. If you are using it as a thinking creative exercise tool, allow yourself to free associate as you go. If you are using it more as a planning tool, consider getting more concrete as you move away from the center.

At the top of this page is a map I created as a guide before I started making this website. Below is a simple generic map I created to help you get the idea of how you could map your ideal life.

Sometimes I map all in pencil first and then add color after. Here is an example, my livelihood map, which only has the main branches in color.

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Lisa Kellogg
Rosendale, NY 12472

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